Courage is a gift. It’s not a skill, but a gift. Ask God for the gift of courage. Take courage! Seize it! It’s there for the asking.
— Br. Curtis Almquist
Society of Saint John the Evangelist
Good morning and thank you for keeping Antonio and I in your thoughts and prayers as we traveled to Seattle for my ordination on Thursday. Although I would have loved to have had the ordination here in West Hartford or nearby so that some of you could have shared in the occasion, I was glad to have been able to see so many people who have been so incredibly important in my life—especially the last five years.
We got back into town yesterday after a red eye and a drive from New York City, so as you can imagine, I’ll be taking a pastor’s nap this afternoon…of course I could always catch a catnap if announcements run long.
On the flight to Seattle on Wednesday, I read in Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be about a woman named Angie O’Gorman.1
Angie lived alone in her two-story house, and one night she awoke to the sound of her bedroom door being kicked in. A man entered the room and began to get verbally abusive. She could only see his silhouette and was understandably frightened beyond belief.
Angie thought to herself how useless it would be to scream…no one would be able to hear. She remembered that her phone was downstairs. The notion that owning a gun would have been useful crossed her mind, but in this moment she realized that even if she had a gun the intruder never would have allowed her enough time to reach under her pillow (or whatever) to load, aim, and shoot.
Angie then realized something: she realized that there were two ways this situation could play out—either she and the man would make it through the situation safely, or they would both be damaged. If he raped her, she would obviously be damaged; and she would almost definitely make sure he was damaged too. If he went to prison, he would be damaged further.
In this way, Angie and her intruder’s safety were connected. This thought didn’t take away her fear, but it enabled her to not be controlled by the fear. She was able to respond speaking firmly but without hostility.
So she said the first thing that came to mind, “What time is it?”
Coffee for your Monday.
On the feast of St. Barnabas | Confirm not Conform -
Since my biblical MBTI match seems to be Barnabas, I thought I’d post this piece on him from Confirm Not Conform. His feast day was this last week.
What Myers-Briggs personality type are you, what character do you relate to, and do you know where to find that character in the Bible?
Mona, a good friend of mine from Church of the Good Shepherd, Vancouver (Washington) made this stole for me with Antonio’s direction. Besides some of the obvious design elements (a symbol for the Holy Spirit and the Chi Rho—the monogram for Christ), the lighter fabric that covers most of the outside/front of the stole is from a prayer shall. This shall was blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
I have heard many explanations of the symbolism of a stole:
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why would an ordained Christian minister want to wear a stole blessed by a…the Buddhist monk?”
It’s pretty simple, actually.
This particular stole is clearly a vestment designed for use in Christian worship, and I am a Christian. The Dalai Lama is not a Christian, but he has committed much of his life and work to engaging others on the grounds of common humanity; no one is not worth the Dalai Lama’s time. Antonio confirmed for me that this is true based on what he saw when he was assigned to his duty as a photographer last month.
As a priest, I am of course responsible for facilitating worship for the parish in which I serve, but I am also called to servant leadership…and not only to those who call themselves Christians and attend church every Sunday. The fabric of the prayer shall, blessed by the Dalai Lama, is a gentle (and fragile) reminder that everyone whom I encounter is a child of God.
Now just because I am the one wearing the stole does not mean that I am the only one who will try, struggle, and often fail to see others as children of God; priests simply do it a bit more publicly.
Mona spent upwards of 100 hours making this stole—with the greatest care, she put together something that I will cherish forever. And as usual, Antonio was able to surprise me with a gift that was thoughtful and meaningful.
Update: After my ordination, Mona presented me with a stole for every liturgical season.
The ordination last night was spectacular. Not only was I not getting very sick (as I was when I became a deacon), but the whole spirit of the event was bountiful.
As we sang Veni Sancte Spiritus, just before the consecration, I reflected on everyone I’ve known and everywhere I’ve been that has affected my journey. Most of those people and places were represented: Antonio, family from my mother’s and father’s sides, many of the churches I’ve been part of, the youth conference community, my CPE (hospital chaplaincy) team, the YASC (young adult service corps), and two friends from high school and college, one of whom I hadn’t seen for five years.
I count myself blessed, and I thank each and everyone of you for your support.
“Ordination, like baptism, is the celebration of a demotion. Unlike sorority initiations or Eagle Scout ceremonies, it is a rite in which we step down, not up. It is a ritual in which we are made the servants of all, and it seems… that there is a rich irony in our lining up to do this kind of work. Would any of us answer a classified ad that said, ‘Menial labor, long hours, high expectations, low pay?’ And yet, here we are…”
Tonight I will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests along with four other brothers. It has been nothing less than an absolute privilege to walk with and learn from all of those with whom I’ve encountered on this first five years of the journey.
I remember talking with then-Suffragan Bishop Nedi Rivera and good friend Liz Barr (then-White (or ‘Whiz Lite,’ for those playing the home game)) at Six-Day in 2008. I had stood up for a blessing on a possible calling during what would best be described as an Episcopal Spiritual Gifts Altar Call. Basically the adult leaders and youth participants of a week-long Episcopal high school youth camp were naming for themselves and each other the various spiritual gifts that each one possessed; we were blessed for the gifts so that we would be conscious of them and seek to enrich ourselves and our communities through those God-given gifts.
At the end, Nedi suggested that anyone contemplating ordination to the diaconate or priesthood ought to be blessed for that seed or sprout of the calling and continue the conversation.
My conversation happened to have continued, and five years later here I am. A lot has changed…a lot has changed in five years, but as I was saying to Antonio earlier this week about tonight, the ordination service puts glowing skin on an otherwise unknown future in ordained ministry. At this point I know nothing of what the years may bring (let alone tomorrow and the next day).
At the service I simply expect to be surrounded by people I love who love me back, each one of us seeking to know ourselves and be part of a community bigger than we can really imagine. Tonight I expect to inaugurate the continuance of what God has already been doing in me, the other ordinands (Michael, Alfredo, Jon, and Eric), and everyone near or far, past, present, or future.
There is not much else to say except ‘thank you.’
[Original Post: Two young jesuits are being ordained priests today at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in downtown Toronto. A third will be ordained deacon. With this ordination in mind, here are a few wise words by Barbara Brown Taylor for your prayerful reflection.]
(Source: philipchircop, via myadventuresinoddity)
Couldn’t imagine a more liturgically-appropriate rental car for an ordination. #holyspirit (at Mediterranean Inn)
Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity -
Religion is a sensitive topic, and a study like this is bound to draw critics. To begin with, there is, of course, another side to this story. Some Christians will object that our study was tilted against churches because they were given no chance to defend themselves. They might justifiably ask to what extent these students really engaged with their Bibles, their churches, and the Christians around them. But that is beside the point. If churches are to reach this growing element of American collegiate life, they must first understand who these people are, and that means listening to them.
Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations -
The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows
“Seek the Truth come whence it may cost what it will.” As my friend Weston Matthews noted, this guy seems to be doing just that. I pray for his safety and for wisdom for the higher-ups making decisions about our privacy and means of securing/maintaining security here and abroad. I also pray that the NSA doesn’t waste its time with my boring web searches lately for, “how to choose throw pillows” (or phone conversations on the same topic).
Here’s a good quote from Snowden from the article:
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”
He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.
It’s Monday morning! Pour the coffee!